Tech, Gadgets, Photography, Social Media and Poor Spelling

Discussion: Is taking a random photo of someone an issue?

I recently took a photo of a guy on a train who wouldn’t move his bag from the seat opposite and published the photo on Facebook. It’s raised a question of taking photos of people in public places.

I like taking photos of people in various situations, just doing what they are doing, i like the non posing, the lack of setup and the look and feel of someone just doing what they are doing and not thinking about how they look.

I’m pretty sure i’m not alone in this as well the internet has millions of photos taken of people doing normal things in public places.

The question is should that person be asked for their consent before the photo is put on the internet? The obvious answer is yes and civil liberties could be argued however i’ve taken some photos which sometimes just can’t get the permission of the subject(s) as they have moved on already, on a bus, train, round a corner in a busy street.

The internet has many locations which try to explain the “law” in the UK when it comes to photography of people and public and private places, the common consent seems to be

there are a few basics that it’s worth remembering. On the whole, UK law doesn’t prevent photography in public places. This is, of course, assuming that you’re not committing any other offence such as obstructing a police officer from doing their job or holding up traffic by setting up your tripod in the middle of the road. Also, as long as you’re not causing any harrassment, you’re allowed to photograph other people if you’re both on public land. If the person you’re photographing is on private land, they could claim a right to privacy, and if you’re on private land, then the owner of the land has the right to restrict photography on their property. How you choose to use the photos later may well be restricted by whether you have a model release or property release, but this is a different matter. It’s worth noting that some places that may seem ‘public’ are in fact private – the Royal Parks for example, and shopping centres. And you should also be aware that if you’re photographing something that could be deemed sensitive to national security, then recent prevention of terrorism legislation could result in you having some explaining to do down the local nick. (1999) What is the law regarding photographing in public places in the UK and what are your rights?. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 26 May 2012].

However it’s important when referencing the internet that you recognise the date the information is published as information like this as governments have a tendency to change laws especially those which cover the potential of terrorism very quickly.

My investigation found that while in the UK you are able to take photos of people in public places this is open to interpretation and there are many example of just how this could be interpreted differently in a courtroom than you might expect. so i ended up in the location of the people who enforce the law in London specifically the Met Police and there is an interesting statement on the Met Police website on the subject and the guidelines their police officers are given on the subject

The power to stop and search someone under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 no longer exists.

Police officers continue to have the power to stop and search anyone who they reasonably suspect to be a terrorist under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act.

Officers have the power to stop and search a person who they reasonably suspect to be a terrorist. The purpose of the stop and search is to discover whether that person has in their possession anything which may constitute evidence that they are a terrorist.

Officers have the power to view digital images contained in mobile telephones or cameras carried by a person searched under S43 of the Terrorism Act 2000 to discover whether the images constitute evidence that the person is involved in terrorism. Officers also have the power to seize and retain any article found during the search which the officer reasonably suspects may constitute evidence that the person is a terrorist. This includes any mobile telephone or camera containing such evidence.

Officers do not have the power to delete digital images or destroy film at any point during a search. Deletion or destruction may only take place following seizure if there is a lawful power (such as a court order) that permits such deletion or destruction.

Any officer making an arrest for an offence under Section 58A must be able to demonstrate a reasonable suspicion that the information was, by its very nature, designed to provide practical assistance to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism

It would ordinarily be unlawful to use section 58A to arrest people photographing police officers in the course of normal policing activities, including protests because there would not normally be grounds for suspecting that the photographs were being taken to provide assistance to a terrorist. (2000) Metropolitan Police Service – About the Met – Photography advice. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 26 May 2012].

However there is more to this than just the law of course, there is the question of courtesy, in the example of yesterdays photo or others i’ve taken should I have asked the person if  they were ok if i publish the photo on the internet. What would I do if someone asked me. I’d personally want to know if any cash was being made, if it wasn’t then i’d generally be alright with it however in the case of the photo yesterday I was trying to highlight the arrogance of a passenger on the UK Rail network.

There is also the question of who the photo is of, i’ve a simple policy of if i capture a photo what has a kid anywhere in it and i don’t know that kid’s parents i will not publish it. So family members etc are generally ok but random children photos going up on the web without their parents permission for me is just a no go area as it’s too easily misconstrued and potentially misused.

Other than that, the ability to capture a non staged photo of a person doing what they do unaware of a photo being taken is a situation which just has so much interest for me.

I’d love to know what you think. Would you mind if your photo was taken? Would you ask everyones permission? are there taboo areas you’d not photograph?


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This entry was posted on May 26, 2012 by in comment, photography, review, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , .
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